A Come Back Story - Experiencing God at Work
Immanuel Fellowship Baptist Church, Abbotsford, BC
How did this happen? What do we do now? How will we recover from this? Those might have been questions mulling around the heads of the leadership team and church family at Immanuel Fellowship Baptist Church in Abbotsford, BC just over two years ago. Their lead pastor had resigned. Three out of five of their other staff members left over the next five months. They were in the midst of planning a whole new vision for the church and suddenly all that work came to an abrupt halt. They lost three board members. Over a short period of time their congregation plummeted from 500 to 200. And from all that, their finances suffered greatly. The future looked uncertain, but those still there didn’t lose hope and they had the desire to move forward. They began to pray, they formed a search committee and trusted that God would provide. The leadership decided to find an interim pastor first, someone who could come and help them heal and walk with them as they worked through painful issues.
What they didn’t know was who God was already preparing for them and soon their paths crossed. Pastor Dennis Bunio and his wife Dianne felt God’s calling from their church in Armstrong to the Lower Mainland area. They were looking for an associate position, but graciously accepted the interim role at Immanuel. Then Dennis began to do what he does best, connect and encourage people. He used his experience as a lead pastor to work with the leadership team to initiate a process to develop a whole new vision that went deeper than the previous one. The church was seeing God at work in so many ways: new people began to attend and others came back, church attenders stepped up and took risks to serve in new ways and a number of people in the church gave sacrificially which provided them the financial means to continue to move forward. The leadership team stepped up and eventually they hired Dennis as their Associate Pastor and added an Immerse student (overseeing Youth Ministry) to their staff.
In March of 2017, Immanuel welcomed Kyle Corbin as their new Lead Pastor and he and his wife Amy moved into the community. Kyle and Dennis, along with the leadership team completed their work on the new vision and rolled it out to the church. March also brought a new worship leader to the staff team. Last fall, they celebrated as their Immerse student graduated and came on staff full time as their Youth Pastor.
Coming in to a church that had been going through what Immanuel had been experiencing is quite a challenge, but an exciting one. While we developed the new vision, I focused on preaching and building trust with the congregation. By God’s grace we now have a healthy church, leadership team and staff. Our congregation is growing (we are now between 275-300 on a Sunday). But, even more exciting than that, we are seeing the amazing life-transformation that only comes from individuals encountering Jesus. Since I began in March, we’ve seen a number of children and high school students decide to follow Jesus and we’ve had 7 adult and youth baptisms. We’ve seen people leaving lives of addiction, individuals with incredible life challenges experiencing freedom and it’s all happening because God is on the move. If there’s one thing I know for sure it is this: God hasn’t forgotten Immanuel, in fact, I believe He plans to use us to see his kingdom come in Abbotsford as it is in Heaven.